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Yesterday the NZ government announced that it is getting tough(er) on smokers.
It has proposed a bunch of new restrictions and controls on the sale of tobacco in an attempt to significantly reduce the effects smoking is having on the health of the nation. Last year alone it is estimated that 4,500 died prematurely as a result of tobacco use.
In an interesting twist to managing the problem, there are plans to "age out" tobacco use by forbiding its sale to anyone born after 2004. This would effectively introduce a rolling minimum age for purchase that starts at 18 and increments each calendar year.
The big questions however, are will it work and is this a form of racism?
Racism? What the hell am I talking about? People of all ages, races, colours and creeds smoke tobacco, how can tougher controls be racist?
Well it's a sad fact of life that Maori are over-represented in NZ's smoking statistics. According to the Ministry of Health's latest data, Maori are 2.8 times as likely to be smokers than non-Maori.
Another interesting observation is that "People living in the most socioeconomically deprived areas were 4.5 times as likely to be current smokers, compared to those living in less deprived areas, after adjusting for age, sex, and ethnicity".
Clearly, any moves to further increase the price of tobacco products would impact the poor and Maori dispropotionately -- so is this racism?
One could argue that it is racism but a form of racism that is already widely endorsed by government and the people of NZ. It is in fact "positive" racism that is designed to "support" those who are currently disadvantaged by race. This is why we already allow Maori to have special privilege in so many areas -- it's compensation for all the bad things our great great grandparents did to their great great grandparents (apparently).
By saving Maori from themselves through these tough anti-smoking measures, they are being helped to a better, brighter, healthier future. So sad that we're also effectively saying "your just too stupid to see this for yourselves so we're going to make the right decision for you". I'm not sure that's a very nice thing to say at all.
So I will sit back now and wait for the "professional victims" out there to come forward and cry foul. They will inevitably play the race card (when there is none to play in this instance) and claim that raising prices or making tobacco less accessible can only result in increased poverty, family violence and other issues.
Fortunately, I know that most Kiwis (of all races) appreciate that the health toll associated with smoking is unsustainable and stopping people from smoking is the best way to ensure that our health dollars are spent most effectively.
I've never been a smoker so this doesn't affect me but my parents were and I still recall the awful stench of stale cigarette smoke and these days I shudder when people I know start complaining about the hideous cost of a packet of these things. Why would anyone subject themselves to such physical and economic abuse?
Ah well... here's looking forward to the day when nobody, of any race, colour or creed, needs to be addicted to a senseless mind-altering drug that causes such physical harm.
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